Why I don’t give my kids 100 percent

Jack and Lola Photography
Jack and Lola Photography

This article was first published on UtahValley360.com and LDSLiving.com.

Being a mom requires a lot. By the end of the day, I feel like I’ve been tugged on, sucked from and sneezed on so many times that I just want to scream “give me some space!” Sometimes I do.

The days of working on something without interruption or even finishing a sentence during an attempted conversation with another adult are few and far between. I’m constantly at the mercy of the needs and demands of the tiny humans who are wholly dependent on me.

Don’t get me wrong — I love being a mom. Making my kids happy brings me inexpressible joy and fulfillment. But sometime after I had my third child, I realized I was giving 100 percent of myself to my kids 100 percent of the time, and there was nothing left for me.

I was running on a constantly empty tank. And that meant I was impatient with my kids. I felt a touch of resentment when my husband went to work and left me to navigate through eight hours of my kids’ meltdowns, boredom and bickering. Every day felt like an impossible feat.

I wasn’t enjoying life as much as I used to. I felt like my only identity was mom, and I was failing at the one thing I was supposed to be.

But then I realized something.

Mom is a beautiful identity. It’s the one I treasure most. But it’s not my only one. It was never meant to be. I’m a person. A whole person with unique talents, strengths and dreams. A person who needs to take time to exercise, to eat well and to sleep enough in order to be happy. And if I’m not happy, my family sure isn’t.

I also realized that I need time, without my kids, to connect with friends. I need that time to feel validated and to remember I’m not alone in the ups and downs of motherhood.

I need to step away from my role as “Mom” every now and then to remember that I’m not a mombot. Because although the routine parts of motherhood are important and necessary, it’s doing the things that bring me happiness, progression, validation and fulfillment as a person that make me a good mom.

I realized that taking care of myself is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. And I don’t need to feel guilty about doing it.

Oh, the mom-guilt monster is still ever-present. If I get some babysitting help so I can do the work I love and escape mom life from time to time? Hello, mom-guilt monster. I make my child skip a nap so I can hit a yoga class? Mom-guilt monster is all up in my Namaste. I decide to break up a stressful week by getting out with my girlfriends? You better believe mom-guilt monster is clicking along behind us in her hot pink high heels.

Sometimes she even sneaks into the car when I’m headed out on a date with my husband. She sits in the backseat with a smug look on her face, reminding me that no one can put my baby down to bed like I can, and she’s probably crying right now, and I probably shouldn’t have left her.

The mom-guilt monster is always going to be there, tagging along like an unwanted third-wheel. But I get to choose whether I listen to her or not. And that includes when the she takes the form of a neighbor, friend or family member.

So whatever it is that makes you happy, that helps you relax, that reminds you that you are a whole person and not only a mom — set aside time to do it. Protect that time like crazy. And put some duct tape over that pesky mom-guilt monster’s mouth.

Because when you do things for you, guess what? Your tank gets filled. And you’ll have a whole lot more to give to those precious children.

Now, my kids know they don’t get 100 percent of my time and attention. They know that sometimes I pursue things that don’t involve them. They know I need to take breaks and take care of myself. They know I’m not a mombot whose sole purpose is to give 100 percent of my time and attention to them. But they also know that I love them, 100 percent. And that’s what matters.